Survivor Series Reclaiming Its Identity

By AJ Howells

As I’ve said many times before on this blog I grew up through the multi coloured, ultra-cartoony 1990s with wrestling. Hogan, Macho Man, Ultimate Warrior etc. were all decked out in more colours than you see on a Dulux colour chart and I loved it. These guys and their bright, bold colour scheme are amongst my first memories as a wrestling fan. Some of my other earliest memories are loving how individual the different events WWF would run were.

My favourite has and always will be the Royal Rumble, I love the concept, I love the mystery and intrigue that countdown and running order provides and I think the “Road to Wrestlemania” is a great storyline driver from January to April each year. My next personal favourite growing up was always the Survivor Series. The teams of all our favourite good guys and bad guys being thrown together, given a campy name and cutting painful one after the other promos before entering the arena were all great.

Around the turn of the millennium the card at Survivor Series started to look different and the traditional four on four or five on five matches were reduced from the whole card at the event’s inception to maybe one or two most years, with some years around this time having no matches of this nature at all. As a fan, I was always disappointed in this as I loved the elimination style matches and missed the way that being the sole survivor could launch a new star. The Survivor Series became just another Pay Per View, and no different to any of the other eleven events (outside of the Rumble) we would see each year on the WWF calendar.

The lead up to the old-fashioned Survivor Series was always relatively predictable as suddenly the stars of the WWF would start to form alliances with others in their respective storylines, but would only ever need to make friends with three or four others…it’s like they knew what was coming up! This always gave the lead in to the event an interest factor that other big events lacked. The teams, as I said earlier were often odd bed fellows and the captains and the team names were always good fun. Once these matches started to die out on the show it didn’t feel the same, and I think Survivor Series has gone from being one of the undisputed big four shows of the year (with Rumble, Mania and SummerSlam) to being replaced by the Money In The Bank event given that show’s impact on the year ahead in WWE programming. At best, it was now a big five.

So, we fast forward to 2016 and the upcoming Survivor Series event this Sunday. Although the show will have a headline match that is a singles between the returning Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar the show is once again heavily populated by the traditional Survivor Series elimination matches and it is so nice to see the show returning to its roots. Although maybe not high in number the amount of build for these tag matches has far outweighed anything else on the card. Whether you like the combatants involved or not, whether you wanted your guy or gal in to replace someone else or not is somewhat irrelevant in terms of the show being what Survivor Series should be. Personally, I think the RAW v Smackdown rivalry is too soon after only a month or two of the brand split but the matches should be entertaining as they include pretty much the entire roster over the three elimination tag matches. I don’t mind the few singles matches scattered around the card but am just so happy to see the reclaiming of the identity of what the Thanksgiving Pay Per View should be.

This year’s event will, apparently, be four hours long like Wrestlemania and SummerSlam. Add in a one hour pre-show and this is far too long a length to time to be watching the same show and I really don’t understand the reasoning for it. On a positive note, it should see the tag matches given enough time that we don’t have to see ridiculous spots where multiple men supposedly forget they’re in a match and fight each other into the dressing rooms. They don’t do this at any other show all year but something about the memory of the Gobbledy Gooker’s debut makes these athletes lose their desire to win and generally forget the rules of any wrestling match!

The old-school Survivor Series multi man matches were often used to enhance an ongoing feud by having someone pin a certain individual or a member of a team turn on the remaining members to breed a feud coming out of the event. It is often a springboard to the Royal Rumble as the Rumble is to Wrestlemania. We could finally see the implosion of “Team Chris & Kevin (or Kevin & Chris)” to propel them in to a match at the Rumble. Could we see a Shield reunion of some sort within the match to build that narrative heading in to the Royal Rumble match itself. Who knows but this type of intrigue and plot twist has been as much a part of the Survivor Series identity as the multi person matches themselves.

This weekend’s show might be a stinker, I believe it’ll be pretty good if not a bit long, or it might be a triumph of WWE booking but whatever the outcome, whatever the fallout I’m just glad to see Survivor Series reclaim it’s identity.

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